Think that throwing a yo-yo around looks like fun? Not sure where to start? Never fear, for we are here! This beginner’s guide will take you step by step into this thrilling world of dexterity and skill. Well, step by step into getting started, at least. All the hard (fun!) stuff that comes after that is still up to you.
Let’s Get Throwing! – Choosing a Yo-Yo
This is a popular step for analysis paralysis. At the end of the day, the best yo-yo is the one in your hand, so don’t spend too much time trying to min-max this. Consider the idea that every production yo-yo out there is good. There isn’t a whole lot to them, after all. From there, it’s all just a matter of opinion. Since you’re new and are not yet ready to have an opinion, you are left with that first simple idea. Therefore any choice is a good choice.
Starting with a plastic yo-yo that can be fitted with either a responsive or unresponsive bearing is ideal. Plastic is cheaper, so the cost of entry is lower, and it can withstand getting thrown into the ground over and over. A responsive bearing makes it easier to focus on practicing your throw, without needing to worry about learning bind tricks right away. Having the option to swap the bearing out and experiment with unresponsive play is a nice bonus.
Responsive vs. UnResponsive
A “responsive” yo-yo is one that comes back to your hand “on its own” when you tug on the string. Chances are that if you’re reading this, this is the yo-yo you are familiar with. It may even be the only yo-yo you thought existed until now. You throw the yo-yo down and it either sleeps (spins at the end of the string) or comes back right away. Easy peasy.
An “unresponsive” yo-yo doesn’t like to come back on its own. Once thrown, it will sleep at the end of the string until it’s out of gas, and it will not return when you tug on the string. A player must perform a trick, known as a “bind”, to engage the response system and get the yo-yo back to their hand. There are countless ways to bind a yo-yo, and they range from simple to outrageously complicated, so there’s no need to be intimidated. That said, it will be easier to learn a bind once your throws are strong and straight, and your throwing will improve much quicker with a responsive yo-yo.
Some Good Plastic Starters
Recess First Base
It comes stock with both a responsive and unresponsive bearing and it costs between $20 and $30. This yo-yo can get you started and take you very far, and they come in a variety of styles to boot. I haven’t personally thrown a First Base myself, but it is highly recommended by people I trust in the community.
This was my first yo-yo. It can be purchased in a variety of packages, some of which include finger wrap and bearing lube. I don’t use finger wraps anymore, but I did when I started. It can take awhile for calluses to form. Thick lube is a highly recommended purchase no matter which responsive yo-yo you buy, as they tend to become less responsive over time. I recall lubing my Sage bearing about once a day every day, so keep that in mind.
- See it at YoYoTricks
Trying Out a Metal
I can’t say that I recommend going this route from the get-go, but sometimes a person got a taste of a metal yo-yo and it’s just what it has to be. Maybe you’ve done the responsive thing years ago and you want to see what this unresponsive thing is all about. Maybe you’re ready to upgrade. Metal gets expensive fast, so there aren’t many I would recommend for a beginner.
The “Shark Squad” N12 may have a weird name and a silly engraving, but this is a solid yo-yo. It also has the reputation for a quality of play high above its price-point. Note that this yo-yo only comes as unresponsive.
- See it at Amazon.com
Learning Your First Tricks
Before you begin, I just want to point out that this will take lots and lots of practice. As you practice, your body will be gaining muscle memory and learning things that your brain doesn’t even realize you are learning.
The first time you land each trick will feel AMAZING, and then you will proceed to only land it on a small percentage of tries. Then as you do the trick more and pick up nuances of the trick, your success rate will slowly climb. I recommend working on more than one trick at a time. As you begin to land one trick, start learning another trick right away. If you start to get bored or frustrated with the tricks you are trying to learn, start learning a new one. You will find that getting good at one trick will actually make you better at the tricks you are not practicing as well. And sometimes, taking a break and coming back to a trick also helps a great deal.
My Favorite Learning Resources
Tutorial videos are a popular way to explain and teach people yo-yo tricks. There are a few different styles, so never hesitate to search for the trick name on YouTube if you’re having trouble with it. Sometimes it just takes a different person using different words to make something go click in your brain. Below are two of the resources I find myself going to the most often.
These guys are amazing. Their videos are always the first ones I seek out when I get the itch to learn something new. The videos are free, they have a smartphone app you can download, and the level of detail in their explanation is phenomenal. I cannot recommend this website enough for new throwers.
André Boulay has created an awesome library of tutorial videos that, like the folks at YoYoTricks, range from beginner to advanced and all go into remarkable detail. It has become a habit for me to always watch a trick tutorial on YoYoExpert right after I’ve watched it on YoYoTricks, just to see how André explains it. Eiffel Tower and Skin the Gerbil are both examples of tricks that I am happy I did this with. For whatever reason I found myself struggling with these tricks after watching the YoYoTricks videos alone, but I was succeeding almost immediately after taking in YoYoExpert’s version of them.
At first, you may find that you are learning tricks quickly at a rate of a few per week. It feels great, and seeing immediate progress is always encouraging. After a while, it is normal for this rate to slow down. This is OK, and I’ll repeat that it is normal, and I have found it useful to pay attention to how all your basic skills constantly improve regardless of what new trick you’re trying to learn. Still, finding yourself aimless and discouraged may happen, so here are some suggestions to help you stay on track.
Get a checklist
Having a roadmap of tricks you’ve learned and new tricks to try is extremely helpful in keeping you going. The question of “what should I learn now?” is a question you will ask yourself a lot. Fortunately for you, it’s easy to answer.
Get some Buddies
The yo-yo community is among some of the most friendly and helpful folks I’ve found on the internet. I’m not exaggerating. I feel like I’ve uncovered the internet’s biggest secret by finding these people. I highly encourage you to dive in and start asking questions.
Subscribing to some friendly faces that love teaching and talking about yo-yos is a great way to keep your interest active. We have our own YouTube channel of course, but we’d be remiss to not also mention some of our personal favorites.
- Dylan Kowalski – Don’t let the mohawk and fighting videos scare you off, the guy has great yo-yo content and is fun to watch.
- Throws N’ Brews – Tom is great at frequently uploading reviews, tutorials, and random thoughts.
- TokYo-Yo – T creates some of my favorite tutorials, and his content is top notch. He also runs a podcast where he interviews companies and players.
- G2 Jake’s Vlog – The man behind GSquared YoYos uploads an (almost) daily vlog. It’s a behind the scenes look at what it takes to run a yo-yo company.
Sharing what you’ve learned
I was never an Instagram user before I started throwing, but now I’m using the service every day. For whatever reason throwers have decided that Instagram is the place to be, and it is just crawling with people sharing photos of their yo-yos and videos of new tricks they’ve learned. The range of skill is VAST, so don’t be shy. There is nothing this community appreciates more than seeing new throwers diving in and showing off their progress.
What Are You Waiting For?
You’ve reached the end of this article. Go! Go and throw!